The Bureau of Labor Statistic has released figures on the characteristics of the minimum wage worker in the United States. According to the latest report, most minimum wage laborers in 2016 work in the food preparation and service industries (restaurants, bars and catering etc.) As the Statista chart below shows, roughly 1.1 million worked in this occupation.
The federal minimum wage in the United States has stood at $7.25 an hour since 2009. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 79.9 million U.S. workers age 16 and older earned an hourly wage in 2016, of which 2.2 million earned the national minimum wage or less. This translates into 2.7 percent of all hourly paid workers. Compared to the 3.3 percent in 2015, this was a slight year-over-year decline.
In general, minimum wage workers tend to be young. “Although workers under age 25 represented only about one-fifth of hourly paid workers, they made up about half of those paid the federal minimum wage or less”, according to the Bureau’s report.
Individual states can pay more but not less than the federal law allows. There are 29 states plus D.C. that do pay more than the required minimum. Massachusetts and Washington State, for example, have wages of $11 per hour, topped by $11.50 per hour in D.C.
There are notable exceptions to the minimum wage law: For example, tipped employees can receive wages of $2.13 per hour as long as the tips combined with the hourly wage match the federal minimum. Or, young workers under 20 years can receive wages as low as $4.25 per hour for the first 90 days of employment.